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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Teachers' Training College, Kirkby, Liverpool:Reliving memories. Part 2. Orientation and Sick Bay

Teachers' Training College Kirkby, Liverpool:Reliving Memories

Part 2. Orientation and Sick Bay

The next morning, cold and exhausted, I peered sleepily through the frosty panes and noticed the buildings were still in dark shadows and the ground was covered with a white mantle.

The buildings were still in dark shadows and the ground was covered in
a white mantle.

 We were told to gather at the recreation hall and so we tread our way gingerly along the slippery pavement to a murky, brick building.  Our most honourable senior sirs and ladies had already lined up along the dimly-lit corridor to give us a ‘warm and rousing welcome’.  Years on, their raucous shouts of ‘WALK FASTER FRESHIES, THIS IS ENGLAND NOT MALAYA’ still ring in my ears. Once inside the hall, I spotted more seniors prowling the floor like vultures that were about to pounce on unsuspecting preys.  The hall was gradually filled with a cacophony of voices.
“Where is your manner, freshie!”
“Zip that smile, freshie!”
“Kowtow to Big Brother, freshie!”
“Your ribbon has wilted , freshie! Make sure you water and iron it.”
“Don’t you dare sneak into sickbay! Charlie the ghost will be waiting for you there.”

Those were words that would become familiar to our ears during the course of the orientation.  Above the threats, the sound of strident shouts, shrill screams and boisterous laughter rang and echoed round the hall.
Some of our senior persecutors were in their elements and   their endless torments left many of their victims seething with anger and some had to muster their utmost self-restraint, lest they let fly a knock-out punch on their tormentor’s face. The junior ladies too had their fair share of ‘entertainment’ and many were left teary-eyed at the end of the day.
I remember when we were finally allowed to return to our Blocks, I would pause outside the hall to get my bearings, as the orientation had not only left me disorientated, but the dimly-lit road and fog made the Blocks almost indistinguishable.

The Blocks were almost indistinguishable

About a week into the orientation, in spite of the threats and spooky tales I found myself in the college sickbay. 

The college sickbay where students seek treatment for minor illness and injuries.
Photo: Courtesy of Vin Quen who is seen here with Matron.

 At first there were a few juniors to keep me company, but as they were gradually discharged, I found myself the only patient in the sickbay. At night, as I listened to the howling wind and heard the rattling of the window panes, they would conjure image of ‘Charlie’.

The sounds conjured image of 'Charlie'

One morning I asked Sister if I could be discharged.
“No, young man, you are not going anywhere,” she replied.

When I was finally allowed to leave the place, I found out I was just in time to attend the crowning of the freshie’s queen which marked the end of the orientation. After the closing ceremony there were warm handshakes, big hugs and embraces among the seniors and juniors. Our ‘enemies’ had become our friends; our ‘persecutors’ were now our protectors. We realised that most of the threats, taunts and humiliating acts we had to  undergo during the orientation were meant to teach us social etiquette and to remind us to always remain humble, irrespective of our achievement and social status.  The seeds of friendship planted during the seemingly endless cold winter would grow and blossom into a friendship that would last a lifetime.